MDA boss denies under oath having an office at PL HQ

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Construction lobbyist Sandro Chetcuti denied under oath having an office at Partit Laburista HQ during the public inquiry proceedings on Monday afternoon. Chetcuti and former acting Police Commissioner Ray Zammit testified during the sitting.

In a previous sitting, Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia said that Chetcuti was frequently at Partit Laburista Headquarters in the general election run-up. The construction lobbyist has denied ever having an office at the PL Headquarters.

  • Former acting Police Commissioner Ray Zammit who served between July – December 2014 testified, and said that he never understood why he was never appointed Police Commissioner
  • Zammit said that the Security Service never informed him of any risks to Daphne Caruana Galiza
  • MDA president Sandro Chetcuti told the Board of Inquiry that then-Opposition leader Joseph Muscat had asked to facilitate meetings with businessmen in the community. He said that he did this on a voluntary basis
  • He denied having an office at Partit Laburista Headquarters
  • He said he did not meet disgraced former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri before his appointment
  • Chetcuti said that he had a good working relationship with disgraced former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. He described him as a “friend”

Lawyers Peter Caruana Galizia, Jason Azzopardi and Andrew Borg Cardona are appearing for the family.

15:35 The court was adjourned. Tomorrow a session behind closed doors will be heard. The next public session will be held on Monday 20 January at 2.30pm, followed by a session on Wednesday at 2pm.
Monique Agius
15:29 Chetcuti said that it was important to have a level playing field where everyone could compete fairly.

MDA boss complained that the media always tried to portray him in bad light. He said that he was surprised that Anglu Farrugia only mentioned him from all the businessmen he saw at the party HQ.

'Parties, band clubs, charity organisations, are constantly asking for donations,' Chetcuti said. Many a times, we realise that we have to give a donation because otherwise things won't move forward, Chetcuti told the Board.

He then clarified that 'moving forward' was a reference to the the operation of that activity.

Chetcuti said that he always donated the same amount to both parties.

Speaking about pre-2013, Chetcuti said that he was hurt by the Nationalist Party about a personal incident. However, the Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil had worked to build bridges, 'he almost made a public apology' Chetcuti added.

He recalled a comment by a senior PN official who had told him to 'diversify the business because there was no more space for construction industry'.
Monique Agius
15:23 Dr Azzopardi referred him to a statement he made under oath, describing "serious businessman wanting to meet Muscat", Chetcuti said that what he meant was that "a serious businessman would not go into the specific details of a personal case".

"I never had a discussion on the power station," Chetcuti said in a reply to Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro.

He recalled that the discussion was mainly about the hotelier sector. The MDA had proposed the extension in height of existing hotels, which was later approved, Chetcuti explained.

Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino said that it seems the policy was to meet the different stakeholders and see their policies … Chetcuti interjected saying there was no commitment from Muscat.

'We were worried when public good was undervalued. I've argued with Muscat on this, and we would flag it up,' Chetcuti said.

Said Pullicino asked whether there was a situation of 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine'.
Monique Agius
15:20 Azzopardi asked about Chetcuti's hug to disgraced minister Konrad Mizzi.

Chetcuti said that he had always condemned the behaviour and not the person, 'I've learnt this from St Aloysius!'

He added that he had good working relation with Mizzi.

'It's my way of greeting a person, maybe I overact, I hug them and press them against me,' Chetcuti said explaining his hug to Mizzi describing him "a friend".
Monique Agius
15:15 Dr Azzopardi referred to the electoral campaign January – March 2013, which was "well-oiled", he asked him whether he was aware that much of the money came from the businessmen he had introduced to Muscat.

Chetcuti said that he was aware.

"As a businessman on a small scale, I always gave the same amount to both parties," Chetcuti said, as he opened an envelope containing receipts of such donations.

Azzopardi: Do you know about a donation of €1 million to the Labour Party?

Chetcuti: Of course, not!

Azzopardi: Did you call up SMEs who were given a contract of €250,000, and were instructed to give a donation to the Labour Party?

Chetcuti: No
Monique Agius
15:11 Dr Azzopardi asked about situations when James Piscopo was present at the meetings Chetcuti was facilitated or whether he was directed to send them to CEO.

'Sometimes he would be there,' Chetcuti said.

'To be fair, I used to introduce the medium enterprises to the Opposition leader,' Chetcuti clarified.

Dr Azzopardi reminded Chetcuti that if wanted he could reply behind closed doors.

Chetcuti said that he could recall situations when the businessman would be given a new appointment to go and speak to James Piscopo. He added that sometimes they would take down notes during the meetings, but he could not reply where these notes ended as he would leave with the businessmen.
Monique Agius
15:10 Chectuti was asked about business community contributions to the political parties. He recalled that in 2013, when there were fundraising marathons he would message some people in the business community to donate to the party and send them to the CEO James Piscopo.
Monique Agius
15:08 Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino said that what was worrying is that Farrugia had mentioned the fourth floor, while Chetcuti was saying something completely opposite.

Chetcuti described the fourth floor as having a boardroom and cubicles serving as offices. Reiterating that he only went there after the election.

'I was giving my contribution, so that the economy grows, and that the construction economy is given the attention it deserves,' Chetcuti explained.
Monique Agius
15:04 Chetcuti said that they would meet Muscat at restaurants or cafeteria in the open in the election run up.

Chetcuti said that once he was appointed as MDA president, he took a step back from "partisan politics". He referred to building bridges with then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.

'I've introduced Muscat to businessmen in places like Girgenti,' Chetcuti explained after Muscat was elected as Prime Minister.

MDA boss said that while he knows DB group, Marco Gaffarena, Tumas Group, he was not the one to introduce them to Muscat.

Chetcuti said that Polidano Group, the owner had organised a dinner at his place for which he was invited, but it was Polidano's own initiative.
Monique Agius
14:58 'In 2011, we formed the MDA,' Chetcuti explained. He said that in 2011, he was asked by Dr Muscat to facilitate meetings between the business community and the Opposition leader. The business community was not limited to developers, but hoteliers, importers, etc. These were his close contacts.

Chetcuti said that Yorgen Fenech and his relatives were not present at these meetings. He added that he got to know Keith Schembri when he was appointed Chief of Staff and not before.

'I had met with Muscat and told him about the difficulties the business community was facing at the time,' Chetcuti told the Board. 'I think these would speak about policies,' he added. Chetcuti was further pressed to see if these businessmen opened up with Muscat. He said that they might have, but they would speak about policies.

'Muscat had welcomed the idea of the first time buyers' scheme,' Chetcuti explained.

Sandro Chetcuti claimed that he went up to the fourth floor on election day and does not recalling going there another time.
Monique Agius
14:55 Judge Emeritus Mallia asked Chetcuti whether he was aware of what Chris Fearne told a local newspaper, and he replied 'no'.

'Dr Muscat who was Opposition leader then, had sent for me,' Chetcuti recalled. 'I used to be in the third floor,' he said. He described his work as 'facilitator'.

Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino asked a direct question if he held meetings at the fourth floor before the 2013 election.

'I never went there, I never had access to fourth floor,' Sandro Chetcuti.
Monique Agius
14:52 Next up was Sandro Chetcuti. Board of Inquiry chairman Judge Emeritus Mallia referred him to the testimony by Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia.

Chetcuti said that when he heard what said in court he went to notary Sam Abela and made a sworn statement in which he said that he had no office at PL headquarters on the fourth floor or any other floor there.
Monique Agius
14:47 Ray Zammit never received an FIAU report during his short tenure, he told the Board following a question by Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro.

He also said that he never received any information from the Security Service on Caruana Galizia. He explained that sometimes he would receive information from the Security Services. But he stressed that he never passed any of this information to OPM or anyone else.

'I never resigned from the Police,' Zammit said. He explained that he went back to his previous post until May 2015. He then went to continue working at CCF.

He completed his service at the Police Force. Zammit stressed that he never resigned from the Police Force.

He recalled speaking to Justice Minister Owen Bonnici when he got to know about the possibility of setting up LESA. Zammit offered his services wherever needed. He then took up a role with LESA which he still occupies.
Monique Agius
14:44 The shooting incident

Dr Azzopardi asked about the shooting incident which led to the resignation of Zammit. First, Azzopardi asked the witness who was Home Affairs Minister at the time. He replied Manuel Mallia who is related to Zammit from his father's side.
Monique Agius
14:40 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asked why and by whom was he appointed as Acting Police Commissioner. Zammit was Deputy Police Commissioner at that time, he recalled being called to the Office of the Prime Minister. He told the Board of Inquiry that the previous Commissioner told him that he would resign and encouraged him to take up the post if he was offered the post. Zammit recalled telling Peter Paul Zammit that it was not the ideal time to resign.

At the OPM, he was offered the job and he told then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that he was had taken the oath and would serve.

"Up to this day I don't know why I was placed as Acting Police Commissioner," Zammit told the Board.
Monique Agius
14:35 He explained that those "key points" were monitored however there was no request from the District Police for a fixed point to be stationed outside the residence. He added that there was no evaluation of threats since there was no request for such an assessment.

Zammit explained that he never received a request from the District Police or relatives.

Madam Justice Lofaro asked whether the patrols were registered. Zammit explained that this information can be found in details of the district. He explained that the Police would patrol these key points.

He said that before he was appointed Acting Police Commissioner, slain journalist Caruana Galizia had a fixed point. He recalled being told by former Police Commissioner John Rizzo that the fixed point will be no longer there. He had gone to her residence and told her personally after being greeted by Dr Caruana Galizia. This was some 10 years ago,

'The detail sheets can be obtained from Mosta Police Station,' Zammit informed the Board.
Monique Agius
14:32 The first witness of today's sitting former Acting Police Commissioner Ray Zammit took the stand. After taking the oath, Zammit said that he was appointed as Acting Police Commissioner in July 2014. His appointment came to an end in December 2014.

He told the Board of Inquiry that there were frequent patrols in the area but there was no police fixed point outside the slain journalist's residence.
Monique Agius
14:31 The Board of Inquiry entered the courtroom. Lawyers Peter Caruana Galizia, Jason Azzopardi and Andrew Borg Cardona who are appearing for the family are seated at their bench.
Monique Agius
14:22 Thank you for joining us. We're reporting live from Hall 22.
Monique Agius

The first sitting of the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was held on 6 December where Peter Caruana Galizia the widower of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Matthew Caruana Galizia took the witness stand.

The public inquiry was set up a few days before the deadline set by the Council of Europe in its recommendations to Malta. The public inquiry board is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, and is composed of Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro and Judge Emeritus John Said Pullicino.

The board’s composition was subsequently changed after the family of the slain journalist and rule of law NGO, Repubblika, voiced their concerns about the impartiality of government nominated members – Anthony Abela Medici and Professor Ian Refalo.

During the last sitting, it emerged that former Police Chief Peter Paul Zammit Peter Paul Zammit explained that when he took over the Police Force he had investigated the case into disgraced European Commission John Dalli. He recalled having gone through the whole file and found certain shortcomings in the investigation. A report which was previously hidden also came to light. He explained that former Police Commissioner John Rizzo did not see this report.